By: Ashley Lizzi on March 19th, 2021
When Will I Get the Pontoon Boat that I Ordered? (Lead Times Explained)
You’ve taken the plunge and ordered a new pontoon boat. Summer is approaching and you can hardly wait to take delivery of your new toy.
You spend your days searching for photos of what your new boat will look like and sharing them all over social media. Now that you’re in planning mode, you’ve taken the time to make a list of all the equipment you’re going to need to bring on board.
The countdown is on and your family is chomping at the bit. As the snow melts and buds pop on the trees, you may be feeling a little antsy because your boat has not arrived yet.
Has this left you wondering, when will I get my new pontoon boat? Why does it take so long from order to delivery?
If so, you’re not alone. There’s a sea of excited boaters out there waiting for their boats just like you. As a member of the Barletta Boats team, I’m going to explain lead times and why it takes so long for your new pontoon boat to make its way to your dealership.
Seasonality for Manufacturers
Due to cold weather climates, a large part of the country will be boating for as little as 3-4 months each year. If you’re lucky, you might be able to sneak in five months if you have a warm enough October.
That said, there are hundreds of thousands of boaters looking to take delivery of their brand new boat each spring. In that case, there would be a massive log jam if manufacturers built the majority of their products at that exact time.
Both dealers and manufacturers are planning their inventory needs months or in some cases, up to a year in advance. This allows for steady boat building rates and runs that are critical to quality.
Scheduling production so far in advance gives pontoon boat builders time to properly assemble their products. This leads to higher quality over quantity in the market.
Because they’re planning so far out, it means that there’s not a guaranteed open production slot at any given point in time. Meaning, you don’t jump to the front of the schedule line when you place an order.
I want you to be aware of this process so that you understand how important it is to plan ahead if you’re thinking about ordering a new pontoon boat. The further in advance you order the more chance you’ll have of receiving your boat for the upcoming boat season.
Supply and Demand
Supply and demand as it relates to your new boat include more than just your dealer’s inventory. If there’s a huge demand for boats in one part of the season, there’s also a huge demand for boat parts.
It’s virtually impossible to ramp up a manufacturing facility over short periods of time. That’s because all of the vendors have to be able to ramp up as well. That includes everything from engines to small components on the boat.
Some of these parts have long lead times such as custom-made furniture that’s produced for a specific boat. Some parts come from small companies that are capped on how much they can produce at one time.
That said, one vendor for one component can keep the line from doubling production. No matter what you do as a manufacturer, if one vendor is short, it can delay the entire production line.
The number of vendors that go into making just one pontoon boat can be anywhere from 50-100 different businesses. That’s 50-100 chances there will be a delay or shortage in the parts necessary to complete your order.
With pontoon boats specifically, there are a handful of outboard engine manufacturers to choose from. So, if there’s a delay in their production for any reason, that could also delay your order.
Vendors have such a big role in making sure pontoon boat manufacturers can keep up a steady production pace so that production schedules stay on track all year round.
A delay in the middle of winter will impact your order and could potentially push back your delivery time even though you thought you would be receiving your boat that following spring.
As I write this article, we’re in an unusual market due to Covid-19. A year ago, businesses were shutting down and stopping production. Since then, there’s been a boom of new boaters across the entire country. This created the perfect storm which translates into a delay in all boat orders.
The marine industry as a whole is currently experiencing an undersupply and over-demand. As I mentioned before, you cannot stop and start a production line with a snap of the fingers and not expect to get behind.
This shutdown affected parts vendors which affect the manufacturer which delays your boat showing up at your dealership. Some boat manufacturers are literally sold out until a year from now which will have a delayed effect for those expecting their new boat for the following boat season.
This makes me think of that episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel work in the chocolate factory and as soon as they get behind on packaging one piece of chocolate, the whole line gets backed up.
Just the same, there are all kinds of market disruptors that can happen that are out of the manufacturer’s control. For instance, years back an earthquake in Japan caused a tsunami and a nuclear meltdown which greatly affected the production of Yamaha engines.
This was an incredibly damaging natural disaster that damaged everything in its path. It was a setback for many, including the outboard engine manufacturer and the boating industry.
This is also the case because the boating industry is a fraction of the size of say, the auto industry. Because of that, even small disruptions get magnified, so you can imagine what an engine setback will do.
It’s important to keep this in the back of your mind if you think you would like to purchase a new pontoon boat in this market. There’s no telling how long this over-demand will stick around, so remember the further you plan ahead the better.
Communication with your dealer is key in this process. Boat dealers are not lying to you when they say timing is important, it can make or break your summer plans.
When to Order
Timing is everything when placing an order for a new pontoon boat. Here are a few things to consider if you’re ready to buy and are expecting your boat to show up soon after.
A safe rule of thumb is to order a new boat in the fall, this way you will likely have it before the following boat season. You will be less likely to receive the boat in time if you order the boat in late winter/early spring.
In a normal market, this gives most manufacturers enough time to schedule and build your boat with extra time to spare. Although it’s certainly possible to see lead times shorter than that, remember what I explained above regarding unforeseen delays.
That brings me to my next point, ordering at a boat show January-March. Boat shows are a great way to shop for a new boat. You get to see a bunch of different products side by side and who doesn’t love show pricing?
If you buy from a boat show, you might be able to take delivery of the boat sitting on the show floor unless it’s already spoken for. Ordering a boat at the show does not ensure that you’ll be taking delivery that upcoming May.
This is just another reason why it’s important to plan ahead. Every manufacturer’s schedule is different, your order could take two months, but if something goes wrong with a part or there’s a change in the market, it could take months to a year to receive your new boat.
Start Planning Now
If you have the slightest inclination that you might want a new pontoon boat in the near future, start planning now. This is especially true because of the high demand in today’s pontoon market.
Talk to your dealer about their inventory and if there’s anything they have on order that you could buy before it hits the lot. This could be a quick way to secure a boat that’s already been scheduled by the manufacturer for production.
Another thing to keep in mind is that dealers usually keep inventory on hand that will meet just about anyone’s needs. Determine what's critical about your boat purchase, you might just find what you’re looking for in the showroom.
Some stock boats can get really close to what you want and will be more readily available than ordered boats. This is a great way to get on the water without waiting for your boat to be built at the factory.
If you have already ordered a pontoon and are feeling anxious about the delivery timeline, I can tell you everyone is in the same boat (pun intended). My best advice is to communicate with your dealer about timeline updates they have received regarding your order.
Keep an open mind, especially in a high-demand market like we’re in today. Everyone is working tirelessly to supply, build, and perfect your new boat before it leaves the factory. We hope to get you on the water as soon as possible. Start the conversation and chat with a dealer about your order.